Another Wasfamili Visit.

Martha (chewing buai), Jerome (not quite awake with his breakfast cracker), Patrick (distracted by a passing PMV) and Beatrice (as cute as always).

Now that digicell put a tower up in Ukarumpa it is easier to keep in touch with the family who I stayed with for 5 weeks during training in August 2008.  They call me about once a month on a weekend evening and I spend about 10 minutes saying hello and goodnight to the whole family.  It doesn’t take much but these phone calls remind me of the relationship I have with them.  So when I am in Madang I try to make it out to the village and spend a bit of time with the family.

Patrick and Jerome

Patrick came into town on Monday with his uncle who owns a PMV and they took me back to Sarang.  It was wonderful to see everyone again and to sit and story, catching up on their lives.  Patrick is currently waiting for a Elementary training course to start so he can be trained to teach.  And Martha’s days are full just taking care of the family.  With recent rains the water pipes broke so now everyone has to walk further to the school in order to fill their bottles with drinking/cooking water.

Martha with her little sister Amanda and niece Annette filling bottles from the constant stream.

We took a walk over to the school in order to fill bottles and wash in the river that flows by.  While waiting I watched Beatrice and her friends swim and splash around in the river.  This is bath time (not much soap, just rinsing off the dirt) but the kids have fun too.  Some of the boys even had little boats they had made out of limbun (a certain tree bark).

Beatrice climbing onto a fallen palm tree.

The rest of the afternoon and evening were filled with visiting and relaxing.  The house that I stayed in during my stay has been made into home for Patrick, Martha and the kids.  As Patrick and I talked about everything from school reform, job prospects, government policies the kids played nearby and Martha cooked a delicious dinner.

Eshron and Jerome.

My past couple of visits Jerome had forgotten who I was and was afraid but this time he sat with me a couple of times, played with my watch (he likes to light the background light) and I even got a smile out of him a couple of times.  After dinner we storied some more with other family members joining us.  And then it was off to bed.  I fell asleep listening to the sound of crashing waves on the beach.  I seem to always sleep well in Sarang.

Me and beautiful Beatrice.

The next morning I woke up, packed my things, ate a cracker and drank part of a cup of tea before heading over to the Uncles house to catch the PMV back to town.  As usual my family had loaded me down with gifts of food.  I carried back 4 kulaus, 6 coconuts, 3 pineapples, 4 hands of bananas, a whole lot of green beans, a bag of cherry tomatoes and 6 papayas (including one huge 16 pounder!).  They were thrilled that I was going back by car to Ukarumpa which meant that I could carry most of their gifts with me.  This food came from all different family members.  It really is their way of taking care of me.  It’s just part of the relationship we have.

Visit to Karem

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One of the highlights of any trip to Madang is getting to see my PNG family who I stayed with for 5 weeks during my orientation time last fall.  It is nice to be able to sit down, story and catch up on all the news since my last visit in February.  Patrick was gone to a crusade on one of the nearby islands but Martha was there with both little Jerome and Beatrice.  Beatrice is now six and just as beautiful despite her shaved head (a lice prevention measure).  It is always humbling for me to visit because despite their economic situation the entire family is overly generous.  I left with 9 coconuts, 3 kulau, 3 hands of bananas, two pineapple, a giant papaya and some buai.  Now that digicell works in Ukarumpa, I will be able to stay in better content with them between visits.

Weekend Vacation in Madang

Last weekend I drove with Brian and Susan down to Madang. Susan and I finished our work with the first STEP module on Wednesday so we decided to celebrate and take a well deserved break. We rented a van and the three of us along with 4 STEP students, who were headed the same direction, drove down to Madang. The drive will be a later, separate blog entry with pictures because it’s an adventure in and of itself. With all of the rain and the naturally unstable ground, the roads are particularly unpredictable. But that’s another story.

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Onto the snorkeling;-) So we arrived in Madang (about a 5 hour drive), dropped the students off at their various stops and made our way to Rempi. Rempi is an area close to Madang just up the North Coast Highway (don’t think LA freeway- think two lane paved road). Thursday afternoon and all of Friday, Brian, Susan and I swam, snorkeled, played cards (cribbage!) and hung out in this beautiful location.

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As I swam out towards the reef I just kept thinking about Finding Nemo. Although I didn’t see any little orange fish- I liked to just sit above the other schools and imagine what they were thinking.

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And here I am coming in from a swim. The picture doesn’t do the area justice. So beautiful!

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Then on Saturday morning we woke up and after breakfast headed up the North Coast Highway just a little further to where we had spent village living in Karem. Brian and Susan went on to visit their family and I stayed the night with my family. It was great to see Patrick, Martha and the kids again. We storied, ate and I taught some of the boys how to play Sudoku. Later in the afternoon we walked around and visited some more relatives and sat and storied late into the evening. In the morning we got up and had tea before washing in the river and getting ready for church. It was nice to walk with the family again and on the way back I took this picture of Beatrice walking with her Uncle Jerome along the North Coast Highway. Sunday afternoon we drove back into Madang and stayed Sunday and Monday night in a guest house close to the city center. We worked on a puzzle, relaxed and used Monday morning to shop at the various stores and the market. My purchases included spicy tulip meat (kind of like spam but way better- a flavorful addition to kaukau hash, pizza and omlettes), meri blouses (a PNG fashion stable but a bit like crazy patterned maternity tops) and postcards (surprisingly hard to find in PNG). We enjoyed a dinner out at a nice Chinese restaurant and got a good night sleep before our Tuesday morning drive back up to Ukarumpa.

Liklik Haus

So I have received a couple questions regarding my toilet facilities in PNG.  For the most part I do have access to modern flush toilets (when there is sufficient water to flush them of course) but in the villages we use a liklik haus (outhouse).  This is a picture of my village liklik haus in Karem.  It was located in some prime real estate between my house and the beach.  And I must say it was quite fancy- the door had a lock so that I had exclusive use and the walls didn’t quite reach the roof so I was able to watch the beautiful sunrise each morning.  I count myself blessed.

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Martha and Beatrice

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I really enjoyed getting to know Martha (pronounced Mata) during my village stay.  I spent most of my time with her and we would chat or fall into comfortable silences while doing daily tasks or spending time with the kids.  Each morning I would wake up and after a quick breakfast we would head down to the water with dirty dishes, clothes and sometimes kids in tow.  I learned how to wash and scrub everything by hand.  My pots blackened by the cooking fire would come clean when scoured with sand or if necessary scraped with a spoon and my clothes heavy with dirt and smoke would be cleaned with a bar of klina soap and a brush to scrub out the dirt.  When I finished cleaning everything, I would change into my bathing clothes (a long elastic waste skirt pulled up to my arm pits) and head into the river to scrub myself clean.  Sometimes I was followed by two dirty children who wanted to splash and play, other times I would just relax and contemplate how to float in the water and clean my feet, which so often seemed like such a futile task.  After washing sometimes we would go to the garden or to the market, spend time working on traditional string bags or just hang out with whoever was around.  Martha taught me many things, like how to light a fire using a plastic bag to help ignite the wood.  She also taught me how to cook garden food like kaukau, taro, pitpit or kumu by boiling them in coconut milk made by straining water through freshly shaved coconut.  Martha was sensitive to my lack of cultural understanding and often explained things to me when we were in a group of people or I just looked confused.  Our discussions were usually practical but she gave me a lot of insight into the role of the woman in PNG and the different and very important family relationships.  I enjoyed teaching Martha how to use the drum oven and make bread, scones and cookies.  The “swit kai” (desserts) were always a special treat and were eagerly eaten by everyone in the family.  I rarely cooked food just for myself because it was nice to be able to share and eat together.  Most of my cooking was very basic but the family loved when I made tacos.  Martha insisted on learning how to make tortillas.  The seasoning over the rice and the store bought cheese were a special treat that everyone enjoyed even if the rice was too spicy for Beatrice.  In the late afternoons before it got dark Martha and I would venture to one of our washing spots to get clean for the night.  We would walked to a well and draw water to bathe, go into the bush and wash in a river while balancing on bamboo so we don’t muddy the water or if the tide was right go back to the beach and wash in the mouth of the river.  I never thought I would have to learn over and over again how to wash myself but each place required a different technique in order to get clean.  Martha was gracious and helpful even when I made some very silly mistakes.  When we finished washing we would return home to either cook an evening meal or relax and story with the family or neighbors.  I feel very blessed to have had Martha guide me through my 5 weeks in the village.  She is a great teacher and friend.

Beatrice is a 5 year old with spunk.  She loved to hang out with me and was a great source of information like “How to I sweep the walls of my house?” (It was a new house to the bamboo was always very dusty) or “Who is that person?” (I got many of the uncles mixed up because I saw them less than the aunties).  She talks great Tok Pisin at super high speeds but would gladly repeat herself if I misunderstood or didn’t quite catch what she meant.  As a five year old she is expected to help with certain chores like sweeping the dirt around the house and scrubbing pots or clothes.  She was often sent with me when I went on little village errands like to the market or to fill up my water bucket.  She laughs easily and loves to climb the laulau tree next to my house and help me cook or teach me songs.  And of course she is great at antagonizing her little brother.

Patrick and Jerome

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I was told before village living that it is the people who will make or break your experience.  I was surrounded by men, women and children who were interested in getting to know me as well as patiently teach me about themselves and the surrounding culture.  Patrick was a man with great depth of emotion who talked easily about almost everything.  I simply needed to ask a question and we would sit and story in Tok Pisin, sometimes for hours.  We had many conversations about the life and culture of the village of Karem, as well as raising and taking care of a family in PNG.  We spent many evenings discussing the differences between America and PNG, from house and living styles to culture and world view.  We discussed politics- he explained why people in PNG love Obama (mostly because of his skin color) and I explained how the American voting system works and some of the political views of both candidates.  This led into a conversation about the place of gender and race in politics and comparisons to the PNG political system.  We discussed history and gardens, healthcare and education.  It was amazing to me how many of these conversations would lead back to Patrick’s personal convictions and his relationship with Christ.  Many times Patrick and other men in the village would tell me about miracles and healings that had taken place around Sarang and other places in PNG.  Patrick loves most of all to talk about God’s power and his ability to heal bodies as well as hearts.  Religion and theology were common topics throughout my 5 weeks in Karem.  I was encouraged by the thoughtfulness of Patrick’s faith and it was evident that he strives to follow the Bible and live his life in a way holy and pleasing to God.  According to his wife (Martha), Patrick’s life has changed dramatically since he has committed his life to Christ.  It was great for me to be able to observe how Christian’s live and act in a completely different culture and context.

Jerome, or JJ as many people affectionately called him, will be 2 years old in December and was a delight to have around for 5 weeks.  He ran around “as nating” (naked) most of the time but had an affinity for shoes.  It was not uncommon for him to come down the stairs of his house in nothing but little sneakers or his sister’s sandals.  And adult flipflops were especially fun for him to tromps around in.  Jerome would call out my name and get my attention so I could watch some of his many antics.  He liked to be held up so he could hang from the beam of my house or a tree and when he came down he would declare that his hands were dirty, wipe them off and then hold his hands back up to be hung up again.  This child loves to eat, anything and everything from traditional saksak (a gelatinous mass that took on the flavor of things around it kind of like tofu) to rice flavored with American taco seasoning.  Jerome had the ability to exasperate his parents (like most 2 year olds;-) but at the same time they so often had to choke back a laugh when trying to discipline him because many of his antics were just so cute and funny.

Back from Village Living

This is the view that I enjoyed while on my way to the outhouse every morning.  I have just spent 5 weeks living 50 yards from the beach- I was cared for by an amazing extended family who welcomed me into their lives with open arms. I fell asleep to the sound of crashing waves and awoke to roosters and crashing waves.  I washed clothes, dishes and myself in the river leading up to the ocean and cooked and ate with my family daily.  I have eaten plenty of food straight from their gardens and planted banana trees with them.  I also enjoyed many nights and days of sitting around and telling stories.  I feel very blessed to have been living with a family who openly professed belief in Christ Jesus and spent evenings worshiping with them and watched as they lived their Christian faith in a context so very different from my own.  There are many more stories to tell but for now just know that I am happy and healthy and loving the people here in PNG.

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